Girls prep for D-11 soccer tournament
Nazareth goalkeeper Caitlyn Lazzarini stood in the way of Whitehall advancing to the finals of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Girls Soccer Championships, using her hands, and ultimately her feet, to knock the Zephyrs from the playoffs.
Lazzarini scored the winning penalty kick, propelling the Blue Eagles to a 1-1 (4-2) win over Whitehall, putting them in the finals against Parkland.
The senior may have been officially credited for five saves, but the EPC’s first team all-star selection was the busier than the Mechanicsville Road WaWa’s parking lot at noon as the Zephyrs dominated the action for the first 25 minutes.
Whitehall’s offense kept her active, peppering her with shots, but each time she slid across the goalmouth to turn aside whatever came her way.
Kate Bonshak, the EPC’s MVP, challenged her on a couple of occasions during that stretch, and eventually broke through on a beautifully conceived and executed goal with 1:26 remaining in the first half. Bonshak found Millets just inside the box as Bonshak continued toward the goal, with Millets finding her on the give-and-go for the 1-0 lead.
In the second half, with Whitehall still leading 1-0, Bonshak tracked down a ball, racing ahead of the Blue Eagle defenders to settle it at her feet as she crossed into the box. Bonshak’s speed was no match for the trailing defenders and as she barreled toward the goal, and now it was just Lazzarini standing in her way. Lazzarini didn’t retreat and came out to challenge the MVP, resulting in a collision that broke up the threat.
That turn of events, a huge boost for the Eagles, may have sparked their offense as they got the equalizer at the 24:23 mark with Hayden Berner splitting the defense and tucking the ball into the corner of the goal to make it 1-1.
It stayed that way through regulation and overtime, eventually coming down to penalty kicks. That’s when Lazzarini asserted herself again, stopping shots and then showing off her offensive skills with the winning PK to catapult the Eagles into the finals.
Bonshak said that they weren’t disappointed in themselves, just the outcome.
“I thought my team worked incredibly hard on both sides of the ball,” said Bonshak. “I was so proud of each of them for the heart they showed.
“There are still of course many little things that each of us could improve on, and that will be our goal to work on that during this week’s practice, to be strong for the rest of our season. We learned a lot in that game so we will now take advantage of that and improve upon it. Our mindsets have switched gears from being upset over our last loss to preparing for Districts, and we are excited about what is ahead of us.”
Head coach Chris Bleam said that they played well in the semifinals, as did Nazareth. It often comes down to a fortunate bounce, something they experienced during the course of the season, but came up a bit short against the Eagles.
“Scoring chances come at a premium in the postseason and near misses are as costly as defensive mistakes,” said Bleam. “We need to pay attention to detail on both sides of the ball. We have closed the gap with our physical play but that still needs to improve if we are to be successful in District 11 play. We are a very small team in both size and number of players but we need to establish equality physically with our opponents.”
The Zephyrs will now await district competition that begins this week. The Zephs enter the tourney as the second seed, while Parkland (19-2) sits atop the bracket as the No. 1 seed, cementing that perch with a 1-0 overtime win over Nazareth in the EPC finals.
The Zephs will get a first-round bye as they’ll play the winner of the Pleasant Valley (7) Freedom (10) game that’s scheduled for Oct. 23. Whitehall is then slated to face the winner Oct. 25 at the Zephyr Sports Complex at 7 p.m.
Whitehall owns victories over both those squads this season, with Bonshak scoring a hat trick in their overtime win against the Patriots on Sept. 13.
In addition to Bonshak’s nod as the league’s MVP, Whitehall also had two other players make the EPC first team all-stars. Both those players played key roles in the semifinals as Erica Juliano, selected as a first team defender, consistently thwarted Nazareth from gaining any offensive rhythm, while Kylie Saliby, who got the nod at midfield, set up a number of scoring chances as once again delivered